“Stay alive, Henrietta.” Sounds weak. Without turning, Henrietta clenches a raised fist. She must live. Why does everyone have to put their lives in front of mine?
“Can’t see anything,” Alaya complains. Henrietta probably doesn’t hear. A thought comes to her out of the blue, Should I have kissed her? She shakes that away, Another time, Alaya.
A few moments later the sound of horses pulling up outside fill the room. Alaya’s horses stomp and blow in response. She struggles to control them, mostly by calling to her own, “Whoa, Applejack. Good boy. Steady.”
Henrietta’s turned back to face Alaya in the dim light. At first, Alaya thinks she’s upset, about the horses causing such noise. But, Henrietta’s smile calms her. That’s what she wants. Alaya vows to control herself, she gentles her mind, as she’s done the horses.
Shouting starts. Henrietta retreats back away, into a corner beside the door, in the shadows, Alaya loses sight of her. Fighting sounds fill the air, so loud it seems they’re already back here—upon the girls. Where’s Juan? Or Kalapati?
Two figures dart into the dim hiding space and though that dimness Henrietta stabs one and retreats farther into her corner. All Alaya can do is grip the horses’ reins. And wait.
Those attackers get in each other’s way, the wounded one noisy and full of curses. They close in. One, with long braided hair, hangs behind the other, who steps back to swing. Are spies trained in hand-to-hand? The second one stumbles over rubble and blocks as he moves in on Henrietta.
The curved sword strikes the stone wall near Henrietta’s head. Spark light up her face, causing Alaya to feel the pain, as her friend flinches back. A stone chip?
No matter. Henrietta’s lunged out and back, almost quicker than can be followed. That attacker staggers back and drops to his knees, her sword has surely done him some damage this time. The pig-tailed one moves around his injured partner and searches for a way to swing without hitting the wall.
It is now that Kalapati jumps into the room. One kick and the wounded one is down. In a fetal position, holding his stomach and moaning, she turns first to Henrietta then spins looking for Alaya. In a moment, Juan is at the door looking outward. Keeping watch.
Without taking her eyes from the oppone
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